REVERSIBLE! A concept that may seem unimaginable to patients with diabetes, has now been demonstrated by a study from Newcastle University.
In 2011, Prof Roy Taylor, Director of Newcastle Magnetic Resonance Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK, published a study which highlighted the possibility that diabetes is reversible. However, the study was limited by the small number of patients, the short length of the study, and the lack of certainty as to whether the change is permanent. Recently, a study led by Prof Taylor has shown that diabetes is reversible, even in patients who have had diabetes for 10 years, and after follow-up at 6 months.
In the research, 30 overweight or obese volunteers with diabetes began a new diet characterised by a low calorie count of 600–700 calories per day, administered in the form of diet shakes alongside 240 g of non-starch vegetables. The volunteers remained on this diet for 8 weeks, and were gradually weaned back onto normal, with careful instructions on how much to eat. The volunteers were then supported over the next 6 months with an individualised weight management programme and monthly appointments. The cohort included patients with longer duration diabetes (defined as diabetes diagnoses of >8 years).
The researchers observed a key change in 12 volunteers after 8 weeks on a low-calorie diet: their diabetes had been reversed, and they remained diabetes-free even at 6-months follow-up. Additionally, another volunteer was observed to have become diabetes-free after 6 months. Mean weight loss was 14 kg. It is thought that this recovery can be attributed to the clearance of fat from the pancreas, as even though the volunteers remained overweight, enough fat was removed from the pancreas for normal insulin production to return.
“What we have shown is that it is possible to reverse your diabetes, even If you have had the condition for a long time, up to around 10 years. If you have had the diagnosis for longer than that, then do not give up hope – major improvement in blood sugar control is possible” stated Prof Taylor.
A larger trial including 280 patients is currently ongoing, not only to further solidify these findings but to determine if these methods are applicable to the primary care setting, under the guidance of patients’ family doctors or a nurse.